Steve Smith lights up Panthers in first game against former team
Steve Smith warned you, Carolina.
Hours after being released by the Panthers back in March, Smith told WFNZ-AM, "I want to make sure that whatever team I go to, they’re going to get the best, in-shape 35-year-old guy they can get. If that happens to run through Bank of America Stadium, put your goggles on cause there’s going to be blood and guts everywhere."
His decision to sign with the Ravens meant that Smith would not get his chance to revisit Bank of America Stadium, the Panthers' home field, but Sunday he did get that matchup with his former team.
To no one's surprise, the always fiery receiver torched Carolina early. Smith opened the scoring on a highlight-reel play, hauling in a pass tipped by teammate Owen Daniels and taking it 61 yards to paydirt. A few minutes later, Smith struck again on a 21-yard touchdown toss from Joe Flacco.
He finished the first half with five catches for 122 yards and those two touchdowns. Smith had just one two-touchdown game during his final four seasons with Carolina -- that performance came in Week 1 of the 2011 campaign. In total, Smith hauled in seven passes for 139 yards and those two touchdowns in the Ravens' 38-10 win over the Panthers.
"If I pay attention to that maniac on Sunday, who knows how I’m going to play?" a teasing Flacco said of Smith earlier this week, per the Ravens' website. "He’s going to want the ball probably every single down, and if I don’t get it to him, and I pay attention to how he reacts to that, then I’m going to be in trouble, and I’m going to feel bad, and then we’re not going to play the way we should."
Flacco can joke because of how easily Smith has been plugged into the Ravens offense this season. Entering Sunday, Flacco had targeted Smith 32 times for 18 receptions and 290 yards, all team-leading marks.
Smith had been targeted at least 100 times each of the past nine seasons in Carolina, including 110 times last season as the Panthers captured the NFC South. However, his output dropped from 1,174 yards in 2012 to 745 in '13. The Panthers opted to look elsewhere at the wide receiver position, thereby handing Smith his walking papers.
However, the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport presented a slightly different version of the events surrounding Smith's release Sunday. Rapoport said on NFL GameDay Morning that while the Panthers were worried about Smith's age, salary and rapport with Newton, Smith ultimately asked for his release when he was told his roster spot was being "evaluated" -- possibly with a pay cut in store.
Baltimore probably has little concern for how Smith made it into free agency. Through four weeks, he has been a massive part of the Ravens offense, and never more so than Sunday against his former team.